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Mar 2015

The story of India, like that of Europe, though began at the same time and also lasted almost a thousand years is vastly different in results from what happened in Europe.  

The treatment of Hindus during the Muslim rule was worse than that meted out to the Christians by Muslim rulers. Under the Sultanate (1206-1556). India was held in subjection mainly by the military strength of her rulers.  The sultanate was based on the distinction between its Hindu and Muslim subjects. The Muslims formed the ruling caste.

The Jizya: The foremost among these distinctions was the payment of a special tax, the Jizya which had always to be paid personally. When the Jizya was first levied by Prophet Muhammad in 9 A.H (Hijra) in Arabia it included a land tax. This means that the entire financial burden of the state was borne by the non-Muslims. Under the earliest Caliphs, the terms Jizya and Kharaj were interchangeable. The differentiation in the two forms of taxation implied in Jizya (capitation tax) and Kharaj (land tax) was not made until the time of the late Ummayyads.  In India, at first Brahmans were exempted from the payment of Jizya but during the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq Brahmans were also ordered to pay the Jizya.  It was not its burden alone which was irksome. It was a badge of inferiority round the necks of the unfaithful reminding them constantly that they formed a subject people under an alien rule. The payment of poll tax certified the Hindu as a second class citizen in the state. The Hindus were prohibited from criticizing the Quran, the Prophet and Islam. They could not marry a Muslim.  They forfeited the protection granted to them on committing adultery with a Muslim woman. They were not allowed to make converts.

Old temples were not to be repaired nor new temples built. The rulers could prescribe a special dress for the Hindus and forbid them from riding horses. The Hindu religious ceremonies had to be performed in such a way that neither Muslim eyes nor ears could be profaned thereby. They were prohibited from building houses higher than that of their Muslim neighbours.

Pilgrimage Tax: Most Muslim rulers also collected pilgrimage tax at Hindu places of religion. As various ceremonies connected with death in families had usually to be performed at holy places, most Hindu paid the tax. Thus, the pilgrimage tax was universally paid like the Jizya.

Ban on Public Religious Worship: Public worship of Hindu Idols was forbidden. Since public worship by Hindus was forbidden, they were not allowed to build new temples or to repair old ones. Hinduism at this time had been reduced to an individual religion. Public temples were destroyed at the time of conquest of a fresh territory. Feroz Shah Tughlaq's destruction of temples after the conquest of Kangra and Jaganath Puri stands in a class by itself

Public Services: Distinctions were made between the Hindus and the Muslims in the matter of employment.  Revenue records were usually kept in Hindi except at the headquarters. This necessitated Muslim rulers to employ Hindus in the revenue department. However, they were mostly paidfor by the cultivators and not the state. It would be safe to conclude that the Hindus were excluded from all except the lowest posts in the state. In the sphere of military services as well, Hindus were usually excluded from all high offices and employed only when their employment was unavoidable.

Sumptuary Laws: The Fatawa-i-Alamgiri, a digest of Muslim law prepared under Aurangzeb's reign declares that the Hindus be not  allowed to look like the Muslims,  For example:  Sultan Ala-ud-Din Khilji forbade Hindus to wear rich dresses, ride horses, and drive in carriages and palanquins. Ghias-ud-Din Tughlaq did the same.

Law of Blasphemy: The extent to which the law could be carried is illustrated in Tarikh-i-Firishta. A Brahman was beheaded for maintaining that Hinduism and Islam were both True.

Apostasy: Conversion of Muslims to Hinduism or the re-conversion of Hindu converts was not permitted.  Apostasy was a capital offence. However forced conversions of Hindus in thousands took place during the rule of Sikandar Butshikan of Kashmir. Those who defied the order were slain.  

The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors: Late Professor Sri Ram Sharma in his book (The Religious Policy of The Mughals) points out that Sher Shah Suri, who preceded the Mughals was responsible for the conversion of a Hindu temple into a masjid at Jodhpur. Tarikh-i-Daudi gives details of his religious bigotry. Babur continued the religious policy initiated by the earlier Sultans. Akbar's reign forms the dividing line. Akbar's policy amounted to live and let live. He respected the Hindu sentiments and for this he was attacked by orthodox Muslims scholars and chroniclers.  The accession of Aurangzeb to the throne in 1659 hearlded the triumph of Muslim theologions.  For example: in order to avoid the kalima on the coins being defiled by the Hindus, its stamping on the coins was abolished in 1659 AD. Aurangzeb's religious fundamentalism reached its climax when dealing with the Hindus. Apart from issuing orders for destruction of individual temples, Aurangzeb issued a general order in 1669 that all the schools and temples of the Hindus be destroyed. Governors of all provinces were ordered to put an end to their educational activities as well as the practices of the religion of the Kafirs.

Jizya had been exacted by the Muslim kings of India from their Hindu subjects ever since the Arab conquest of Sind. Akbar removed the levy. Aurangzeb was a Puritan. Aurangzeb's imposition differed from all earlier impositions in that it was also levied on the persons living in feudatory states.


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